22 April, 2012

What kind of D&D Character would you be?

For a bit of fun, here's a questionnaire to determine your identity as a D&D character. Some of the questions are pretty loaded, but on the whole it's not too bad. 

What Kind of D&D Character Would You Be?

(version 5.1EZ based on NEPPYMAN'S version 4.10)

This survey will determine your ability scores, fantasy race, class, alignment, and character level describing what you would be if you were transformed into a Dungeons and Dragons character. This is a long survey, so set aside about 15 to 20 minutes to complete all 129 questions. Each question should be answered as accurately as possible by choosing the answer that either describes you the best or the answer with which you agree the most. The answers have been placed in random order, so read carefully. You must answer every question to get the best possible result. Given the range of ability scores and the number of race, class, alignment, and character level combinations, this survey can produce over 130 BILLION different results.
Once you have finished answering all of the questions, submit your responses using the button at the bottom of this page. The results page will display all of your basic character information and the details of your alignment, race, and class. Also, HTML code that can be used to display the results on your own site and a detailed breakdown of your scores in various categories will be shown if you leave the option boxes checked.

My results:

I Am A: Chaotic Neutral Human Ranger/Wizard (3rd/2nd Level)

Ability Scores:

Chaotic Neutral A chaotic neutral character follows his whims. He is an individualist first and last. He values his own liberty but doesn't strive to protect others' freedom. He avoids authority, resents restrictions, and challenges traditions. A chaotic neutral character does not intentionally disrupt organizations as part of a campaign of anarchy. To do so, he would have to be motivated either by good (and a desire to liberate others) or evil (and a desire to make those different from himself suffer). A chaotic neutral character may be unpredictable, but his behavior is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as to cross it. Chaotic neutral is the best alignment you can be because it represents true freedom from both society's restrictions and a do-gooder's zeal. However, chaotic neutral can be a dangerous alignment when it seeks to eliminate all authority, harmony, and order in society.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Primary Class:
Rangers are skilled stalkers and hunters who make their home in the woods. Their martial skill is nearly the equal of the fighter, but they lack the latter's dedication to the craft of fighting. Instead, the ranger focuses his skills and training on a specific enemy a type of creature he bears a vengeful grudge against and hunts above all others. Rangers often accept the role of protector, aiding those who live in or travel through the woods. His skills allow him to move quietly and stick to the shadows, especially in natural settings, and he also has special knowledge of certain types of creatures. Finally, an experienced ranger has such a tie to nature that he can actually draw on natural power to cast divine spells, much as a druid does, and like a druid he is often accompanied by animal companions. A ranger's Wisdom score should be high, as this determines the maximum spell level that he can cast.

Secondary Class:
Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Detailed Results:
Lawful Good ----- XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Neutral Good ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (15)
Chaotic Good ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (19)
Lawful Neutral -- XXXXXXXXXXXXX (13)
True Neutral ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (18)
Lawful Evil ----- XXXXXXXX (8)
Neutral Evil ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXX (13)
Chaotic Evil ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (17)

Law & Chaos:
Law ----- XXX (3)
Neutral - XXXXXXXX (8)
Chaos --- XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)

Good & Evil:
Good ---- XXXXXXX (7)
Neutral - XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Evil ---- XXXXX (5) 

Human ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXX (14)
Dwarf ---- XXXXXX (6)
Elf ------ XXXXXXXX (8)
Gnome ---- XXXXXXXX (8)
Halfling - XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)
Half-Elf - XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)
Half-Orc - (0)

Barbarian - (-8)
Bard ------ (-2)
Cleric ---- (-6)
Druid ----- XX (2)
Fighter --- (-2)
Monk ------ (-17)
Paladin --- (-21)
Ranger ---- XXXX (4)
Rogue ----- XX (2)
Sorcerer -- XX (2)
Wizard ---- XXXX (4)

20 April, 2012

Gamer Statistics: A new breakdown of the numbers

According to Jessica Hammer in her blog post about the reason for "Dread's" failure at a horror convention, one of the issues is the 90-9-1 rule (this can be refenced back to an article on motivateplay).

I had some issues with that ratio, firstly because one of the standard ratios in business is the 80-20 rule (the first 80% of the work is acomplished with 20% of the effort...he last 20% of the work takes 80% of the effort). It also doesn't really mesh with the tabltop, where we typically see groups of four to six players (one of whom is a GM). Looking back at the source article, I see that the 90-9-1 ratio is derived from internet participation (not rpg participation), and like all statistics it can be tweaked according to the medium examined.

So there's no real fault in the chain of blog posts except for a little misinterpretation on someone's part.

The established ratios are:

90% - Those willing to play
9% - Those willing to step up and run a game
1% - Those willing to write scenarios and games of their own

But I propose ratios based on the 80/20 rule. Where in each case, the 80% is more passive and the 20% is more active. The breakdown works a bit like this:

80% - Those for whom passive entertainment is fine
20% - Those who prefer a more active entertainment

 16% (80% of the 20) - Those willing to provide entertainment based on existing materials
 4% (20% of the 20) - Those willing to devise their own materials

  3.2% (80% of the 4) - Those who generate new materials within the existing rules/setting
  0.8% (20% of the 4) - Those who generate new rules and settings

   0.64% (80% of the 0.8) - Those who tweak was has already been devised
   0.16% (20% of the 0.8) - Those who forge a new path of their own

(You could expand the group with 80% of game players willing to play boardgames with no imagination required, and 20% willing to use their imagination in RPGs)

64% - Those who don't particularly care about the minutiae of the rules, but are simply content to play.
16% - Those who'll read up on the rules to maximise their play experience but won't step up to run a game of their own.

It's like referencing the following:

90% - Those who drive a car
9% - Those who are able to diagnose simple problems with their car
1% - Those who can diagnose and fix problems with their car

While my version states:

80% - Those who only drive a car
20% - Those who can fix car problems

 16% (80% of the 20) - Those who are able to fix minor car accessory problems (changing tyres, checking oil, etc.)
 4% (20% of the 20) - Those who understand something of the mechanisms of the vehicle.

  3.2% (80% of the 4) - Those who can change a battery/jumpstart a car, or overcome issues that require only a few tools.
  0.8% (20% of the 4) - Those who have more comprehensive toolkits, and who can make modifications to their vehicle.

   0.64% (80% of the 0.8) - Those for whom a car is a part of their identity
   0.16% (20% of the 0.8) - Those who whom their car is the core identifier of their life

(Again, You could expand the group, with 80% of drivers able to drive automatic and 20% able to drive stick/manual before dividing up who is able to diagnose and fix problems).

How does this link into my recent ideas?

There are dufferent types of products that can be sold to a market. The more esoteric the product, the more people are willing to pay for it, but the more limited the audience is. Do we want to write games for the 80% where we spoon feed them everything? Or do we want to create toolkits for the 20%? When we split it down further, are our toolkits easily accessible enough for the 16% to use...or do our toolkits require the extra yards that the 4% (or even the 0.8%) are willing to put in?

A lot of the indie games floating around at the moment are only catering to the 0.8% (or even the 0.16%) and wondering why their share of the market isn't bigger.

(Please Note: These numbers aren't the be-all-and-end-all. They aren't thoroughly researched, except through anecdotal evidence and my experience of play over the years.

Keeping All the Characters Linked

One of the valuable lessons from Dead and FUBAR'd was a fundamental success. It's something I was planning to incorporate in greater detail in the player's guide "A Lowlife's Guide to FUBAR", so seeing it work quite well was a great thing to see.

The core FUBAR game embodies the artistic concepts of dadaism at a fundamental level.

Players are all pulling at the narrative in different directions.
Protagonists aren't linked except through a communal story origin.
The rules provide random input into the storyline.

This is all well and good for a sandbox style of play where anything goes; but when a coherent narrative is desired, these elements could be considered distractions.

A simple ruling that links the protagonists in some way has done a lot to pull the narrative into focus.

Following the standard FUBAR mechanism of rolling three dice and allocating them between categories gave the players an idea of how the dice work before play formally began.

Relationship - 1-2: Vague Relationship (0), 3-4: Close Relationship (1), 5-6: Intimate Relationship (2).
Nature - 1-2: You describe the link, 3-4: You both negotiate the link, 5-6: They describe the link.
Balance - 1-2: You owe them a favour, 3-4: No favours owed, 5-6: They owe you a favour.

The "Relationship" basically describes how well two protagonists know one another. This provides a distinct new mechanism that was a bit vague in the basic play rules. It tells us What happens when two characters want to assist or conflict with one another. With a vague relationship, the two individuals don't know much about one another so no bonuses apply. A close relationship means that the two characters know some of idiosyncracies of one another, they may be friendly or antagonistic (it doesn't really matter); when they work together one character can assist the other with a bonus positive trait (on top of anything else they provide), and when they work against one another they may strip a core die. Intimate relationships show that the characters really know one another well, the may apply two levels orth of traits to their associates roll.

The "Nature" basically fulfils the role of the "story" category during the course of play...either you get to describe the details, or the other party gets to describe the details. It may seem like a bit of a throwaway category at first, but the nature of how a group links together can be very important over the course of a story. Two lovers will share a very different relation dynamic to a pair of workmates. During the course of Eye-Con we saw relationships coming in the form of "flatmates", "spouses", "siblings", "gang members", "parents/kids", "step-parents/step-kids", "doctors/patients", "drug addicts/sponsors" and many others. It was really interesting to see how these relationships work into the narrative of play, even when other things seemed to be going haywire. It added humanity to the game.

The "Balance" is the nasty aspect of the relationship...or at least it could have been. The way this played out was deliberately vague. There was no mechanism for how a favour might get paid off, I guess you could say that it was a fruitful void with an agenda. In some games played, a favour might have been paid off by a single action. In other games, the favour was continually used as a gode between the two parties. I'm going to have to go back over the rules I've written up for this aspect of relationships, there is some storytelling gold hidden within this characterisation tool.

I didn't really get much further with descritpions of relationships between protagonists and antagonists during the course of play. I wish I had, but the players were having fun with the system and adding too many more relationships to a freeform narrative starts to add extra constraints. Good in some situations, bad in an "anything-goes" surreal dadaist nightmare. I'd still love to push the FUBAR envelope toward a dramatic story with darkness and angst, this might be a great way to do it.

We'll see.

16 April, 2012

My overview of the past few years in indie gaming

Over the past few years I've used this blog to look at RPGs from a variety of angles.

I spent a year going through game mechanisms, one per week. Looking at how they might be used, the effects they produce within the play environment and methods for using them in unconventional manners. This was a great exercise to see what sorts of play mechanisms exist within the RPG community, beyond simply rolling a d20, comparing it to a nmber and interpreting the result.

I spent the better part of a year developing my own metaphor theory for how RPGs actually work. A lot of work has been done by numerous people to describe how players interact with the mechanisms and pushing into the social theory behind roleplaying games, but this project had the aim of describing the fundamentals of play...when is story told? when are decisions made? how do these two options feed back into one another? What types of play experience tend to manifest when you change the feedback mechanisms between story and game?  

While I"ve been plugging away a these projects, others have been going about their business designing games, the forge has declared it's impending closure, Story-Games has fanatically followed "the next big thing" from one of it's game design darlings, Kickstarter has launched some amazing games by American design teams (Indiegogo has has smaller success but allowed access to an international design community), and WotC has stirred with it's D&D 5th Edition.

A lot has hapened in the last few years, a lot always seems to be happening within the turmoil of the RPG design community...but has this all been for the better?

When I really started getting active in game design a few yeas ago, things were a little different in each of the fields I've just mentioned. I'll go through them one by one. These are just my experiences and my opinions, so bear with me.

The Forge
When I started out at the forge, it was just after the big discussions developing the concepts of "The Big Model", "GNS" and all that stuff that has informed a generation of gaming products. I fervently read through the essays describing styles of play, creative agendas, the lexicons that used familiar words in a way that didn't exactly match our understanding of the English language but were close enough to cause semantic arguments. The time for discussing these issues was over, so I felt a bit behind the eight-ball. But there was still a subforum for game design, a place where you could pose your new system ideas and get some great critique from other amateur designers. I liked the Forge for this reason.

Then the Forge closed down the subforum where you could raise questions about theory, everything had to be related to "Actual Play" experiences. I understand why this is useful, theory without practice is just conjecture...but the place for proposing new ideas was gone. Talking about new ideas on RPGnet is basically akin to screaming at an empty canyon vaguely shaped like two letter Ds with an ampersand in the middle, either you get an echo or some troll screaming you down because it isn't their favourite game (and there's no place on RPGnet for games that don't sell fifty-thousand or more copies). Story Games created
its Praxis Subforum, but that's a ghost town at the best of times.

Besides the flurry of activity each year when Game Chef comes around, I don't know of any places that talk game innovation. That's a shame, and I think that is a step toward the direction of hubris...I'll get to that a bit more later.

Story Games
Publicly on the forum, there is no "in-crowd" on Story Games. They are a group of like minded independent publishers and folks interested in roleplaying games. That's like saying all people in a communist community are created equal and the essence to the society is to ensure their equality throughout their lives. Theory and practice a different, status games are always at work and if you aren't in the in-crowd you might as well leave. The only people who will listen to your ideas are the ones who'll produce a vaguely veiled clone of your work and then gain "huge kudos and indie cred" because they are already a part of the in-crowd.

Story Games as a whole seems to have a passionate dislike for the Forge and it's theories. The often accept that the theory work of the Forge had to happen in order to move the hobby forward, but in every second thread there seems to be someone stating how they resent this or how they've moved on to a "post-forge" paradigm. Story games is for the folks who missed the first new wave of game design for the 21st century, they still worship at the feet of Vincent Baker (which is ironic given his links to the Forge and their hatred of it), but they've become caught up in their own spin doctoring...another step toward hubris. One prominent designer could wipe their arse on a character sheet, and in the tone of art critics they'd be in awe of such a post modern statement about gaming. Another designer could merge two old games in a way that might have been happening on tabletops for the past thirty years, and he'd be hailed a genius for his ingenuity. A less prominent designer might honestly look for a way to tell the stories of race and culture, only to be shut down by the screamers in the story-games community...."you can't say that"..."That's racist"...or my favourite "cultural appropriation". Someone else might raise a subject like "Synnibar" or "Metascape", and then the true rubbishing and insults begin.

Oh, I know I'll probably get a whole heap of posts saying "but Story Games isn't like that", I'll also get a bunch of private messages saying "really, I hadn't considered that, but now that you mention it..." or "Thanks for saying what I've been thinking".  

Perhaps the biggest issue with Story-Games lies in the fact that is a community of game enthusiasts and designers. These are people who go the extra mile for their games. In the recent post I linked about where game design might need to be improved, there was a rough ratio of 90% players, 9% GMs willing to run a game, 1% GMs who might be willing to write their own scenarios or tweak games for themselves (I'll reconsider those numbers later, but for this post they'll do). Story-Games is basically populated entirely with the 1%. These are people who know what they want from a game, they see the rest of the world as the unwashed masses. There was even a post recently where someone asked how to introduce gaming to non-gamers who might like some narrative games, but only know the brand name "D&D" so that's what they want to start with. Some of the responses to that thread were interesting to say the least, especially if you read them through the eyes of a non-gamer.

Getting cuaght up in your own hype is NOT a way to expand a hobby. Story Games (and to a lesser extent, the Forge) has hyped certain innovations such as the Jenga tower in "Dread", but like the upper eschelons of fine wine critiquing or fine art discourse, this has caused a distance between what the critics consider good and what the general public finds palatable. The innovators of the hobby are caught in a negative feedback loop, and it has taken Vincent Baker's failed attempt to sell "Dread" at a Horror convention for some of them to realise that maybe things have gone awry. There will be others who state that this was just a one off, and indeed there is a thread on story-games where people are simply stating that the wrong form of marketing was used for the product...maybe Vincent should have used different words in his marketing spiel.

Even in the RPG community, I can offer to run "Grey Ranks" at a convention. The organisers want a good blurb to draw the crowds. But when I write such a blurb, 90% of players say "that's depressing, I'm here for some fun and escapism". Meanwhile it seems that everyone in the Story-Games crowd is raving about how "dark and brilliant" the game is.

I could point to a dozen other examples (try explaining Ghost/Echo to a non-gamer), but to me they all point to a common pattern of insular designers trying to justify their own existence through hype. Sure there are a few interesting characters in the group who are developing some amazing games, and they are justifiably lauded as heroes of the indie scene, but how many of them actually doing something to keep the hobby alive beyond our generation of gamers??    

Kickstarter (and Indiegogo)
One of the truly positive things to come out of the indie community, and one that has been brilliantly taken up by the innovators of the indie RPG scene.

Print-On-Demand was just starting to really take off when I first got into independent game design. In fact, this was one of the primary motivators for publishing some of my first works. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are just as insular as any other community, if you know the right people it seems far more likely that your work will end up on the front page of their sites and thus gain the most exposure. But that's just life.

I know a few designes who would never have gotten their ideas off the ground without a sizable backing, and sites like this are providing what they need. I've supported a few projects myself.

I hope to be using sites like these more often over the next couple of years to get some really great games out to a wider community. But doing so, I need to ensure that a wider community is actually interested in my projects. My first attempt to use Indiegogo was both successful and a learning process. The Goblin Tarot was a very insular and specific product. Tarot card users aren't particularly interested in roleplaying and roleplayers aren't specifically interested in Tarot. The few Tarot based games I'm familiar with haven't been overly successful. But it was something I wanted to get out, and Indiegogo provided me with that opportunity.

My next few games should see a better uptake because I'm targeting a wider community with a more user-friendly product and have some useful advertising contacts for the work. I'll also make sure I pay a proofreader and offer some good playtest incentives (one of the valuable lessons I've learn't so far). We'll see.

When I started formally designing games, the big thing in RPG was D&D 3.5. A game I really enjoyed, with an Open license that allowed plenty of crappy products onto the market.

I figured that I could produce something better, and started to work. I thought I'd knock out "The Eighth Sea" while I thought of some good 3.5 supplements. By the time I'd finished "The Eighth Sea", 3.5 had been replaced with 4th Edition (for the better or worse). The OGL was gone and huge parts of the hobby were flipped on their head.

I think it was around this time that many people became disillusioned with the D&D edition changes and reverted back to their old gaming styles. Thus the OSR designers banded together to recreate the hobby the fondly remembered from their youth. Was this good or bad?

It certainly added to the variety of play styles available from "new" products, but did it help to advance the hobby across a wider community? I'd say not.Most of the old gaming products came from a wargaming ancestry, and these aren't known for being user friendly.

Pathfinder came, Wizards of the Coast ran in circles trying to find something that would save them from a maelstrom of their own design...not realising that the faster they run in circles, the stronger the maelstrom becomes.

When the big guy doesn't know how to move the hobby forward and becomes fixated on the errors of the past...what hope do the rest of us have for getting our products out there and our hobby growing again?

So where does that leave us?

A fractured community trying to work out where things went wrong.

Some of us looking to the future but so caught up in our own hubris that we can't see that no-one is following us.

Some of us looking to the past, not wiling to accepot that the world has moved forward.

Some of us trying to innovate, but being shouted down by people whop don't like what they're seeing in our work.

Some of us seeing the mistakes of the past and trying avoid making those mistakes as we innovate.

Some of us trying to find like minded game designers, but not really having a good community to discuss to future.

I guess I'll just keep working away at what I'm doing.

14 April, 2012

Where is roleplaying going wrong?

I had a few great conversations last weekend at Sydney's Eye-Con roleplaying convention, some of these were bout the way the roleplaying hobby seems to be going and how we can get it back on track.

My thoughts at the time led to conclusions about blaming "World of Warcraft" and MMORPGs, which aren't real RPGs, but which lure the majority of the players nto something that is a pseudo-roleplaying experience. But I even pointed out at the time...now we blame WOW, 20 years ago we blamed the rise of Magic the Gathering, and in the decades before that we blamed the rise of corporate miniature gaming conglomerates like Games Workshop. It's easy to lay blame, but hard to make the choices that might improve our hobby and spread it to the wider community.

Personally, I think the Cel*Style initiative is great. It reaches out to the anime fans with games that they might be inclined to play...and that crosses over to cosplay territory where the participants are halfway toward roleplaying anway.

I just clicked on a link on google+, I can't remember who posted it (sorry), but it has gotten me thinking about some of the other issues we have as designers, GMs and players of RPGs.

I'm not going to editorialise any further, head across and read the article. It's pretty well considered and offers some great food for thought. The link is here.

10 April, 2012

Post Eye-Con Report and new Considerations

The Con was good.

The sessions I ran were, on average, good.

Each session had its highlights, and each had it's lessons.

The most valuable lesson from this particular con was that FUBAR is a dangerous beast.

It was designed to embrace the concepts of Dadaism, with all its non-sequiturs, absurdity, and questioning of an authoritative voice.

The game system does this well.

Perhaps too well.

Providing the Oracle/GM role for FUBAR is like preparing for a rodeo, where you know that you'll be the cowboy strapped to the meanest bull in six counties. You might hold on, you might get flung into a wall, you might come through it all unscathed...but you'll definitely come away learning something about the others who shared your experience in the ring.

I never got to play the game with two players, as I had hoped during my last session (which is a shame, because I have a habit during prizegiving for providing each member of my two player sessions with an award). The four player games were a little slower, with players having the chance to rest a little and delve into a bit of characterization between the mayhem, the six player sessions were a struggle for spotlight with players screwing over one another for a chance at getting into the action.

The notion of lowlifes calling on one another's negative traits is a great thing when the players are into an interactive mode of play. But in some sessions, it's only in the last few scenes that this really starts to click.

But having run convention games for almost 20 years now, I had a good feeling that this is where this would head. Some of the deeper lessons from FUBAR are more directly appropriate to my redesign of Walkabout.

Walkabout began as my game chef entry in 2010; and since that time, it has sat in the back of my mind as one of those games that I really need to reconsider. It is a special project, perhaps it's my heartbreaker...the game I always wanted to play as a kid but no-one ever really produced a product hat lived up to my expectations about what roleplaying "should" be.

FUBAR is a wild ride through vengeance and rebellion.

But, Walkabout should be a game of careful meditation and forceful rebuilding.

Both are about picking up the pieces of a shattered world. In FUBAR the world of the protagonists is shattered when they are forced out of their daily lives by antagonistic forces that are hidden, mysterious and powerful. In Walkabout, the entire world has been turned on it's head, it's not just a few people wondering what went wrong and then deciding to seek vengeance, it's an entire planet.

If the protagonists in FUBAR die, the rest of the world moves on.

If the protagonists in Walkabout die, the world loses one of its last glimmers of hope and slides a bit further into oblivion.

The basic concepts are similar, but there is a fundamentally different way of thinking between them.

The core FUBAR rules encourage gonzo action, which is good for FUBAR but not for Walkabout. The essence of storytelling through the distributed randomisation process is still important, but it needs some more careful reining. FUBAR is an open sandbox of possibility, Walkabout is a journey.

A reasonably elegant solution struck me during one of the sessions played over the weekend. It links back to something I've done in almost all of my FUBAR sessions but have never formalised in the rules.

Put simply, some players have a better chance of acquiring certain traits due to their background (occupation, heritage, genetics, etc.), players in specific circumstances should have a better chance of acquiring certain traits when in specific circumstances (as a positive example, gaining "information" when stealthily infiltrating an office; as a negative example, gaining "injuries" in combat).

Since Walkabout is far less freeform in nature, it might make sense to limit the available traits that could be acquired...specifically offering a certain range of traits that could become available when certain keywords are used in a challenge situation. You can't buy trait from outside that range unless you change your location, or temporarily acquire a skill through other means (you might need an in game chain of events to achieve a goal...an unstealthy character might need to go where it's dark to gain a stealth advantage before making a sneak attack...while a stealthy character has a better chance of achieving this right off the bat).

There are better ways of describing this I'm sure, I haven't quite captured the ideas that are going through my head, but certain scenes in various sessions across the convention have set my mind thinking.

I'll write again shortly once I've had a bit more time to focus.

08 April, 2012

Dead and FUBAR'd Mid Con Analysis

Because some people don't believe it happens without photographic evidence...

The game has been doing surprisingly well with a variety of play styles.

Five sessions down and we've seen a decent range from blatant zombie stereotypes in South Park-styled slapstick, through to characterised dark comedy.

I still haven't seen a session of serious introspection and questioning of the human psyche...but from what I've seen, the system seems robust enough that it would handle that style of play.

If I referenced what I've seen back to my vector theories about roleplaying. The game certainly suffers a bit when their are effectively eight forces simultaneously tug-of-warring in different directions to pull the story toward their chosen narrative (6 players, GM, and rules), the rules and the GM basically following along for the ride, subservient to the collective will of the players as gestalt. With four players, the GM and rules can combine their force to pull the game a bit more strongly toward a specific ending.

In the end though, it seems that the high number of players still allows an enjoyable game as everyone plays off against one another's traits.

Tomorrow I have a scheduled session with 2 players, it will be interesting to see how the game handles the low number.

I'll offer a bit more analysis then.

06 April, 2012

Dead and FUBAR'd play verdict...

Two sessions of Dead and FUBAR'd at a convention today. One a macabre slapstick where souls degenerated into blasphemous and eldritch things, and the other a cynically black comedy where a psychopath found his come-uppance in the form of so many debilitating injuries that he simply couldn't go further without horrendous penalties.

It was interesting to see the game in full swing with two very different play styles...one of which was a rollicking rollercoaster ride while the other was more of a slow burn along a twisting winding mountain road down into oblivion. 

It was great to get some with feedback from people who played the game at the last convention six months ago, they'd gone home and tried to capture the lightning in a bottle of my GMing style with their games at home and found that the system certainly facilitates this style of play. It's not just me. I still haven't managed to play a straight up serious version of FUBAR (using any of the expansions I've developed for it).

At least seven more sessions of play over the next few days, wit various numbers of players and assorted play styles. This should be fun.

03 April, 2012

Are there stories RPGs shouldn't tell?

The words "Cultural Appropriation" are like a red flag to a bull over on Story Games.

Any time you mention them, you'll get a bunch of people cheering you on, and a bunch of people immediately on the offensive.

There are numerous interpretations of the phrase, but generally it means to act of taking on the mannerisms and affectations of a foreign race. It's common associated with those of white European descent in their various "conquered" parts of the world. As an example, white Americans who follow hip-hop are typically considered to have appropriated the culture of the black communities who founded the genre. "New Age" hippies are typically considered to have appropriated aspects of Celtic, Native and other traditions in their amalgamated spirituality.

But in roleplaying it is often used as a buzz phrase when a setting uses a non-european paradigm for the basis of it's fantasy.

I've seen "Cultural Appropriation" used as a taunt against Legend of the Five Rings, for it's twisted take on Chinese and Japanese societal patterns. White Wolf apparently became so worried about the notion that they withdrew one of my favourite Old World of Darkness sourcebooks ("Gypsies") for fear of offending people.

I've had it levelled at me while developing the concepts behind "Walkabout".

I can only wonder how "Steal Away Jordan" would have been accepted if it had been written by a white male.

As a social experiment, I threw the words "Cultural Appropriation" as a hysterical rant against Jason Morningstar's new game "Durance". This is a game based on the concept of criminals and guards sent to a penal colony far from their original homeland. Jason does not hide the fact that this is based on the historical scenario of Port Jackson (which became Sydney, Australia), a place where I have ancestry.

Claiming aspects of my history and using them as a fantasy seems the exact definition of "Cultural Appropriation", but since I was a white male making this claim a lot of people were confused by my remarks. This seemed hypocritical on their part.

I was also highlighting the fact that the people who make these claims typically only level them at "unknown" or "small fish" game designers, but that's another rant.

What I'm really interested in, is finding out which stories should not be told through roleplaying.

To me roleplaying is about putting yourself in someone else's shoes, whether a historical epoch or a fantasy environment. Roleplaying is about making the decisions we an't make in our regular lives due to the laws of physics, social circumstances or biology.

All roleplaying is cultural appropriation to a degree. Without it, why do we game at all?

01 April, 2012

A few more Walkabout images

I'm pretty happy with the way Walkabout seems to be heading at the moment. It's getting a bit surreal and starting to develop some character.